La Dolce Vita

By Rob Patry


Other than a 1960 Italian film by Director Federico Fellini, this Italian phrase perfectly sums up my life prior to moving to St. Stephen. Yes, I will admit it my dear readers, I have lived a soft/sweet/charmed life. I’m a big city boy. I’ve never killed a chicken or actually seen a chicken. I’m not accustomed to men who hunt and skin their own fresh venison for making minced meat pies. I have never dug for clams, been out in the woods, been attacked voraciously by mosquitoes, or had to search my entire body for ticks, along with those of my two dogs, Sydney and Charlie. These are not East Coast dogs. They are city dogs, unaccustomed to the ‘Live and Let Live’ lifestyle of their maritime canine brothers. They don’t belong to the club of free range, leash free pups born on a farm, prepared to face a myriad of dog challenges such as porcupines, wild turkeys and murders of trash trolling crows. I, as their owner, also face similar challenges.

This is not a country life I have chosen. Clearly, I have similar amenities as my kinfolk from out west. It’s just that everything here is…different. Not in a good or bad way, and certainly not in a malicious way. People in this area are more accepting of certain things. They have an innate, intimate relationship with nature and their surroundings. Houses can be monolithic giants of wood and clapboard with cedar shingles and every architectural characteristic Greek and Roman visionaries ever conceived. And there are certainly no cookie cutter homes. Each is a unique and inspired design by either the builder or the architect. Basements are not commonplace. Out west, our home had a finished basement. One with carpeted stairs, windows, light, and a family room complete with wood burning fireplace. Here, I have something called a cellar. Only accessible from outside via a floor door, it leads to a subterranean area under the house, primarily used to house electrical panels, water heater, and a small creek of water. 

Land is also given out in parcels rather than lots. Feet and square feet have been replaced by acres. Out west, natural gas was the choice for big city heating through a forced air furnace complete with miles of stainless steel ducting. Here, electricity, wood, and liquid propane are the standards of heating. Radiators, baseboards, and something called a split heat pump are the norm. Temperatures throughout the house are controlled more individually rather than collectively, as a whole. There is a sense of freedom and independence, which I appreciate living in the east. The owner of bedroom A can live in sauna like conditions, while inhabitant of bedroom B enjoys the congenial atmosphere of an arctic tundra. At the same time, no less! This is a joy one simply did not have in the big city. 

Folks wave, take the time to chat, say hello at the grocery store, and help out their fellow neighbor. There is no sense of rush or immediacy taking over every step of their lives. We have time to think, breathe and enjoy. We can also leave our footprint on our neighborhood, for good or bad, and make a real mark in the betterment of our town and its inhabitants. On Monday, for the first time since I’ve moved to the St. Stephen/Calais area, the green was completely covered in white. There was a crisp, fresh scent in the morning air. Christmas is around the corner, and a flood of childhood memories rushed in my mind. Change is good. Life is good. Soft, or otherwise.